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David Lammy: Something needs to change, part 1

SERVING REAL JUSTICE: David Lammy MP has been key in providing the report

TOTTENHAM MP David Lammy has published his independent review into the treatment of – and outcomes for – BAME individuals in the criminal justice system.

The report has broken new ground as the first of its kind and included a number of key recommendations. Lammy’s report concludes there is overt racial prejudice in Britain’s criminal justice system, although it is declining.

However, problems of covert and unconscious or implicit bias are becoming more ap- parent. The review was commissioned in January 2016 by David Cameron, then prime minister, and has been supported by his successor, Theresa May.

DISCRIMINATION

It attempts to disentangle the broader effects of discrimination and disadvantage in society from the procedures of police, courts, prisons and the probation service. Among the headline findings in the report were that young black people are nine times more likely to be locked up in England and Wales than their white peers, according to Ministry of Justice figures studied by Lammy.

The proportion of BAME youth prisoners rose from 25 per cent in 2006 to 41 per cent last year. Lammy’s review also reveals that the BAME proportion of young people offending for the first time rose from 11 per cent in 2006 to 19 per cent a decade later.

There was an identical increase in the BAME propor- tion of young people reoffending over the same period. The review contains more than 30 formal recommendations, including introducing assessments of a young offenders’ maturity, exploring how criminal records could be ‘sealed’, and allowing some prosecutions to be ‘deferred.’

Lammy also urges the justice system to take major steps to increase diversity and transparency. The study found that BAME disproportionality in the criminal justice system costs the taxpayer at least £309million each year.

Speaking with The Voice, the Tottenham Labour MP spoke about his initial reluctance to work on the report. He said: “I wouldn’t have done it if I couldn’t take the community with me."

RHETORIC

“I insisted that the review would be evidence-based, so if you view the report it’s not just my rhetoric, it’s not just me saying what I think or anybody saying what they think. We’re used to a judge who sits behind a panel who can call people and come to a judgement about whether they’re telling the truth or not."

“This is a review of the evidence and me getting the academics to tell me what they think and getting the community to obviously feed in as well.”

Frank about his acceptance of the possibility that the review could be perceived as impotent, Lammy added: “Readers of The Voice know me very well. They know I’m a campaigning MP and I call it as it is and on the whole I disagree with most of what the Government is doing, so I was surprised to be asked to do this review and I wasn’t sure at the beginning that I was going to accept. I had to sit with the Government at the time and go through it and look into their eyes; and I took the judgement that it would be churlish of me to say no, because in the end we have to make progress.”

The Lammy Review makes recommendations that, if acted upon by the Government, would represent significant reform of the criminal justice system aimed at achieving greater transparency in sentencing, particularly in youth courts, which are not open to the public and how prisoners are treated by prison staff.

The report also highlights the benefits of developing the potential of young people who are at a critical point in their decision-making to ensure that they do not re-offend; even going so far as to champion deferred prosecutions, whereby a young person would escape custody if they had successfully completed a rehabilitation programme.

“It also examines how rehabilitation and restorative justice are meted out in countries that are seeing lower rates of re-offending than Britain and emphasises the need to be “looking harder at the adults that sit behind young people”.

DIVERSITY

Lammy’s report also examines how greater diversity among prison staff can create trust in the criminal justice system. He asked: “Why is it that we’ve only got six per cent of our prisons being run by black or ethnic minority people?”

Read part 2 of David Lammy: Something Needs To Change on Saturday 16 September at 7pm.

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